Lisa Vanderpump Isn’t Trying to Re-Create ‘VPR’ on New Series ‘Vanderpump Villa’: It’s ‘a Different Energy’

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Lisa Vanderpump - Credit: Gilles Mingasson /Hulu
Lisa Vanderpump - Credit: Gilles Mingasson /Hulu

It’s been a busy year for reality TV veteran Lisa Vanderpump. Not only did she have a hectic summer filming Vanderpump Rules at the height of the show’s popularity post-Scandoval, but she also spent months preparing and filming for her latest reality venture: Vanderpump Villa.

After buying a chateau in the French countryside with the purpose of hosting guests in the luxury villa named Chateau Rosabelle, Vanderpump tells Rolling Stone she wanted to film the experience and immerse viewers in a new world outside of Los Angeles. “I’ve lived in France, I speak French, and I love the whole culture in France. I thought, I can buy this chateau and go back in time to when dinners were lavish and beautiful. There’s this escapism; you’re in the middle of nowhere, and we have these guests that come in and just want to escape. You see marriage proposals, celebrations, rebirths, and it was just a lovely idea,” she says.

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The show follows the chateau’s staff as they live and work together, a conceptual crossover between Vanderpump Rules and Below Deck. The first three episodes of Vanderpump Villa are streaming on Hulu, and new episodes will continue to premiere on Mondays.

The series was greenlit last summer, and according to Vanderpump, she hopped on a plane to start filming Vanderpump Villa in France the day after she finished working on Season 11 of VPR. At a time when the dynamics of her hit reality series on Bravo are shifting because of Tom Sandoval cheating on Ariana Madix with Raquel Leviss and the subsequent fallouts, with the relationships between cast members more delicate than ever, Vanderpump is excited about starting this next chapter with Hulu and Bunim Murray Productions.

How do you think Vanderpump Villa is different from other shows you’ve worked on?
This show is way more visual than Vanderpump Rules. Also, with Vanderpump Rules, you don’t really see the back of the house so much, and you don’t see the organization behind the scenes. We don’t see this whole immersive experience. The premise of Vanderpump Rules was an existing group of friends that kind of grew up together. This isn’t. This is a couple of people who have worked for me before and a couple of people who have been involved with each other before. There were different dynamics, and you put them all together. There’s a lot of positivity and good relationships, but there was also some tension.

Did you have a hand in casting Vanderpump Villa
Of course, I’m a control freak. Something like 5,000 people applied in the first week. There were people who were pretending they were housekeepers who had never picked up a duster in their lives. It was most important to find people who were confident enough to be in that situation because it’s a bit of a struggle living with 12 people. We thought it should be an interesting mix of people from all walks of life, diversity, and great energy. But most of all, they had to be qualified. I didn’t take anybody there to be a reality star. They’re going to be on television, so of course you’re looking for a great recipe of different characters. But we also hosted guests with really poignant things to celebrate, so we couldn’t screw up.

You’re not just a producer on Vanderpump Villa, you also appear as a cast member. Why do you think your presence on screen is also important to the show?
Oh, my God, who else would sort that whole mess out? I can’t employ somebody [to do my job]. I found the chateau with a vision to buy it before the show was conceived. Then I was inspired and thought, “Why don’t we do a show about it?” It was authentic, and then I thought we should have cameras capturing everything. But I had to be there, otherwise it would be like a yacht without a driver.

You have a longstanding relationship with Bravo and NBC. What was it like to work with Hulu and Bunim Murray Productions on Vanderpump Villa?
It was a different experience. I’ve had a great relationship with Bravo, and I’ve put myself out there on the line defending them and defending NBC, standing up for them against all this negativity. I had a very positive experience with Hulu, and they really included me in every decision that had to be made, and almost deferred to me. I was like, “I really feel the color palette should be this,” or “I really like this person for this position,” or “I really think we should do that,” and they said, “This is about your vision. We want it to be authentic. You create it, and we’ll document it.” I had a wonderful relationship with them.

Vanderpump Villa was greenlit last June after news of Scandoval broke. Do you think Vanderpump Rules’ popularity played a role in helping to move this show forward?
No, that was just incidental. We wanted to do it the year before, but I was on Vanderpump Rules, and we couldn’t — I was under contract with them. As soon as I had some freedom, I wanted to do [Vanderpump Villa].

What was your experience filming Vanderpump Villa in France after filming a more tumultuous season of Vanderpump Rules last summer?
This is a passion project; everything I do is a passion project. It’s all about my obsession with beauty and creating restaurant experiences, and with the chateau, this show is the same thing. It’s about “What would I like to see?” I would like to travel to France every week and be in a chateau, listen to this music, see the beauty, and then see what’s going on behind the scenes. I think the upstairs, downstairs feeling is fascinating. I couldn’t be there a lot of evenings because when it was 6:00 in the evening in France, my business and everything I’m working on in the United States opened, so I had to be on Zoom and a lot of the time in the evenings I wasn’t there. So you see the staff have to run the chateau, and they kind of had more leeway to run amok. I would have to kind of take them to task. I had real guests there. I don’t want anybody to think this is a shit show.

Last summer, you filmed VPR under a microscope with fans and paparazzi following the cast’s every move. How did it feel to go from filming in that capacity to an isolated bubble in the French countryside?
Heavenly. It was blissful. I think paparazzi can get in the way a little bit sometimes because you just want to tell the story, you don’t want things leaked here and there. Before Scandoval, we had very few leaks on Vanderpump Rules ever, all the stories were authentically a surprise to the viewer, whereas on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, all those stories would always come out. You almost knew what was going on before you saw it. It wasn’t like that on VPR, so that’s a pain in my ass. I’ve been in London filming with Gordon Ramsay, and to be able to walk down the street without paparazzi is kind of cool. You’re just so conditioned to stepping out the door and hearing cameras clicking, but you want to keep it all fresh so the viewer sees that for the first time.

You’re also just coming off of filming the Vanderpump Rules Season 11 reunion. How was that?
It was enough. I flew back to America from England for one day to film it. There was a lot to talk about.

The cast members’ dynamics have obviously shifted quite a bit in the last year. Do you think Vanderpump Rules will continue?
There’s always that possibility. I didn’t really think we’d be here 12 years later when we started, but the story keeps going. When there are existing friendships, it keeps going, and there’s lots of things happening. Have we agreed? No. I’m here in Vegas for one day. I’ve got to go back to London to finish filming with Gordon. Vanderpump Villa’s been my baby, I’m very excited about it. It’s very different from anything I’ve done. So, I don’t know what the future holds. There’s a lot going on. There are three shows going on, and right now, Vanderpump Villa is my utmost priority.

This season on Vanderpump Rules, Tom Sandoval’s mental health has been a major storyline, and you’ve also opened up about your own brother’s suicide. Why was that something you wanted to highlight?
I’ve been involved in suicide prevention with the Trevor Project prior to my brother [dying by] suicide. He was my only sibling so I was devastated. My life will never be the same, I’ll never get used to it. I’ll never get over it. So when Tom actually said to me, “I’ve had very dark thoughts. It was too much,” I totally understood that. I don’t think many people could have gone through what he went through when [news of Scandoval] was everywhere. He was the most hated man in America. What bullshit, you know? What had he done that would give somebody the right to say that? But it was everywhere. It was at White House Correspondents Dinner, it was on CNN, it was on Good Morning America, and I thought it was too much for him. When he said he had dark thoughts, that scared me, so I said to Bravo, “I think you need to show the truth of this and what he’s thinking.” Otherwise, why would I be fighting for him like that? We should always be careful of other people’s [mental health]. Suicide rates are so high, with young men especially, and I’m very cognizant of that.

Rachel Leviss decided not to come back to Vanderpump Rules this season. I don’t know if you’re listening to her podcast? 
I’m not interested in anything she has to say. That’s the last thing on the planet I would do. Listen, I wished her well, and I was shocked because I didn’t think she was the kind of young woman that would be sleeping with her best friend’s boyfriend. I was shocked but I’m always concerned about how [the cast] will do in the future. She called me. I was the only one who spoke to her when we were filming, and I just said, “Listen, if you want to come back and tell your side of the story, that would be great. You would be one-on-one with me so you can actually get your word in.” She decided not to do that, but I think to continue denigrating the cast [is not right], you know, she was a victim of a circumstance she created.

How does it feel to see Vanderpump Rules alums Jax Taylor, Brittany Cartwright, and Kristen Doute back on TV on the VPR spinoff, The Valley?
It’s great to see people resurging and coming back to [TV]. I’ve never been a fan of a couple of those people. I’ve been honest about that. I’m an executive producer because the show came out of my stable, but I’m not that actively involved. I’m definitely aware of what’s going on, but it isn’t my total passion project. It’s a great show, and it’s well thought out, the way they crossover [with VPR] slightly with conversations. I support all that. I think the fans will feel very comfortable watching [The Valley] because they feel like they know these people already.

Do you think there’s a world in which there will ever be a crossover between Vanderpump Villa and any of your other shows?
Vanderpump Villa is a different energy. It’s not just about the complicated dynamic between the young people, it’s also about how they do their jobs. It’s got a bit of Bridgerton, a bit of upstairs downstairs, a bit of Below Deck, and a bit of Vanderpump Rules, but then a huge amount of uniqueness. But no, I don’t want to see people crossing over and jumping in one show out to the other. This is Vanderpump Villa, and it stands on its own, and it will have its own support.

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